Minster Kehoe ‘satisfied’ with Air Corps audits

The Junior Defence Minister said he is “fully satisfied” the State Claims Agency (SCA) can adequately carry out health audits in the Air Corps despite a separate workplace safety watchdog finding a series of failings at Casement Aerodrome after a decade of annual inspections by the SCA.

Mr Kehoe gave his backing to the SCA after he told the Dáil that the agency “conducted a number of Health and Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006-2015”.

The whistle-blower complaints also prompted an independent review. In his report, the reviewer said “a problem has arisen in relation to the issues raised by the three informants because appropriate records to demonstrate compliance are not readily available”.

The SCA’s audits were not made available to the reviewer, nor was an internal Air Corps report, seen by this newspaper, which raised concerns about staff exposure to the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene.

The SCA is currently defending 21 court cases against the Air Corps, including a number from ex-personnel who say their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome led to serious illnesses.

Mr Kehoe revealed the decade of SCA audits in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who was critical of the decision not to release reports.

“Time and time again the minister states that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for him and the military authorities. This may be the case, but the health and welfare of all future recruits and contractors should be too,” Ms Murphy told the Irish Examiner.

“Health and Safety reports should not be shrouded in secrecy. It is an area of expertise of the Health and Safety Authority, perhaps they should really be leading on this, I question whether the State Claims Agency in the past provided an adequate service and applied robust enough tests to the working environment at Baldonnel.”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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In the interests of transparency, Minister Kehoe should release all the State Claims Agency Health & Safety Management System Audits of Baldonnel with immediate effect.

If the audits were carried out to an adequate standard what has Minister Kehoe got to hide?

Delay – Deny – Die

Irish Air Corps whistle-blower claims death toll from chemical-linked illnesses surpasses 72

A MAN WHO is taking the State to court over his time in the Air Corps believes 72 of his colleagues died prematurely, linking their deaths to alleged chemical exposure at work.

The recent death of a former airman has brought the alleged death toll to 72, according to the whistle-blower.

He also alleges that:

  • 72 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
  • 59 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 36 of these deaths have occurred since 2010

The whistle-blower is claiming that the State neglected health and safety rules and exposed himself and his fellow workers to seriously harmful levels of toxic chemicals. This continues to be strongly contested by the State.

The whistle-blowers in this case alleges there was a disregard for the safety of young Air Corps members. According to an online resource created for those who believe they were affected by the chemical exposure, there was:

  • No meaningful chemical risk assessments.
  • No risk specific health surveillance
  • No Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) issued
  • No chemical health and safety training whatsoever
  • No reporting of health and safety incidents
  • No follow up of unusual illnesses by medical personnel
  • Ignoring dangerous air quality reports
  • Personnel doused in toxic chemicals as pranks (hazing) incidents
  • Highly toxic chemicals disposed of onsite in an unsafe manner

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Irish Air Corps Health & Safety officer ordered evidence of Carbon Monoxide risks destroyed.

In 1995 the Irish Air Corps commissioned an independent third party organisation to carry out air quality testing in the Engine Repair Flight building. ERF comprised the Engine Overhaul facility, the Non Destructive Testing workshop and the Machine shop. Avionics Squadron was located in the same physical building as the ERF and the open attic spaces meant  chemical vapours & fumes from either unit were free to flow in either direction.

The Avionics / ERF building was also less than 20m downwind from the 3m high Spray Paint Shop exhaust stack which exhausted benzene, hexamethylene diisocyanate, toluene and xylene.

Ambient Air Monitoring for Health & Safety at Work Report from the 2nd of August 1995 found that #Dichloromethane (also known as Methylene chloride) was found in some areas to be 175ppm. At the time The most stringent health and safety limits for #DCM were 50 ppm (TWA for 8 hours) and 126 ppm (STEL for 15 minutes).

Personnel, including other ranks employed in the Formation Safety Office, were never informed of these results. Avionics / ERF personnel were left in situ for a further 12 years before the workshops were finally condemned & demolished and needlessly exposed to #DCM and other chemicals.

Significantly Dichloromethane metabolises as Carbon Monoxide once inhaled but is lethal in many other different ways.  We have at least 10 untimely deaths of men who worked in this building alone, their average age of death was 49.3 years and the youngest was only 32.

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So we have one state body warning the general public about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, while another state body hid evidence of a known carbon monoxide threat from personnel working in a heavily contaminated facility.

Delay – Deny – Die

Whistle blower who raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures seeks Air Corps inquiry

A whistleblower who has raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures in the Air Corps says the force used five of the same chemicals at the centre of a cancer scandal involving tech giants Samsung.

The whistleblower has compiled a list of 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that he believes should prompt an investigation into chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

South Korean company Samsung last week apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers after they were linked to chemical exposures in its facilities. Dozens of employees have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumours.

Samsung and a group representing ailing workers agreed compensation terms after a highly publicised standoff that had been ongoing for more than a decade. The president of its device solutions division said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its plants

SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) is a group campaigning on behalf of those who worked in Samsung facilities and subsequently suffered illnesses.

Its website has listed case studies and chemicals used by Samsung, including trichloroethylene, a known carcinogenic used by the Irish Air Corps until 2007.

This newspaper has previously revealed the details of an internal Air Corps memo that said it is possible staff may have ingested Triklone N, a vapour degreaser that contains trichloroethylene,  over a 27-year-period.

The memo said staff could have suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.

The summary of an internal Air Corps report, compiled in 2014, asks: “Can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Dichloromethane – Guide to Hazardous Air Pollutants used by the Irish Air Corps

Methylene Chloride (Dichloromethane)

Above is a photgraph taken in Irish Air Corps in 2015 of a drum of Dichloromethane. This was in use by the spray paint shop in Baldonnel for stripping paint but was handed out to staff from any other unit that wanted some in containers like soft drinks bottles or milk cartons.

Note : The European Union had banned this chemical 3 years earlier in 2015. The current Health & Safety officer in Baldonnel didn’t know Dichlorometheane had been banned and in fact didn’t even know Dichlorometheane was actually in use as no chemical register was in existance at the time despite being mandatory since 1989.

This was prior to the Irish Air Corps becoming LEADERS in workplace chemical Healh & Safety as “self-declared” recently to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence.

CAS  75-09-2

Hazard Summary

Methylene chloride is predominantly used as a solvent. The acute (short-term) effects of methylene chloride inhalation in humans consist mainly of nervous system effects including decreased visual, auditory, and motor functions, but these effects are reversible once exposure ceases.

The effects of chronic (long-term) exposure to methylene chloride suggest that the central nervous system (CNS) is a potential target in humans and animals.

Human data are inconclusive regarding methylene chloride and cancer. Animal studies have shown increases in liver and lung cancer and benign mammary gland tumors following the inhalation of methylene chloride.

Please Note: The main sources of information for this fact sheet are the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Toxicological Profile for Methylene Chloride and EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which contains information on oral chronic toxicity and the RfD, and the carcinogenic effects of methylene chloride including the unit cancer risk for inhalation exposure

Uses

  • Methylene chloride is predominantly used as a solvent in paint strippers and removers; as a process solvent in the manufacture of drugs, pharmaceuticals, and film coatings; as a metal cleaning and finishing solvent in electronics manufacturing; and as an agent in urethane foam blowing. (1)
  • Methylene chloride is also used as a propellant in aerosols for products such as paints, automotive products, and insect sprays. (1)
  • It is used as an extraction solvent for spice oleoresins, hops, and for the removal of caffeine from coffee. However, due to concern over residual solvent, most decaffeinators no longer use methylene chloride. (1)
  • Methylene chloride is also approved for use as a postharvest fumigant for grains and strawberries and as a degreening agent for citrus fruit. (1)

Sources and Potential Exposure

  • The principal route of human exposure to methylene chloride is inhalation of ambient air. (1)
  • Occupational and consumer exposure to methylene chloride in indoor air may be much higher, especially from spray painting or other aerosol uses. People who work in these places can breathe in the chemical or it may come in contact with the skin. (1)
  • Methylene chloride has been detected in both surface water and groundwater samples taken at hazardous waste sites and in drinking water at very low concentrations. (1)

Assessing Personal Exposure

  • Several tests exist for determining exposure to methylene chloride. These tests include measurement of methylene chloride in the breath, blood, and urine. It is noted that smoking and exposure to other chemicals may affect the results of these tests. (1)

Health Hazard Information

Acute Effects:

  • Case studies of methylene chloride poisoning during paint stripping operations have demonstrated that inhalation exposure to extremely high levels can be fatal to humans. (1,2)
  • Acute inhalation exposure to high levels of methylene chloride in humans has resulted in effects on the central nervous system (CNS) including decreased visual, auditory, and psychomotor functions, but these effects are reversible once exposure ceases. Methylene chloride also irritates the nose and throat at high concentrations. (1,2)
  • Tests involving acute exposure of animals have shown methylene chloride to have moderate acute toxicity from oral and inhalation exposure. (3)

Chronic Effects (Noncancer):

  • The major effects from chronic inhalation exposure to methylene chloride in humans are effects on the CNS, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and memory loss. (1,2)
  • Animal studies indicate that the inhalation of methylene chloride causes effects on the liver, kidney, CNS, and cardiovascular system. (1,2)
  • EPA has calculated a provisional Reference Concentration (RfC) of 3 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) based on liver effects in rats. The RfC is an estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of
    magnitude) of a continuous inhalation exposure to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious noncancer effects during a lifetime. It is not a direct estimator of risk but rather a reference point to gauge the potential effects. At exposures increasingly greater than the RfC, the potential for adverse health effects increases. Lifetime exposure above the RfC does not imply that an adverse health effect would necessarily occur. (5)
  • The Reference Dose (RfD) for methylene chloride is 0.06 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on liver toxicity in rats. (4)
  • EPA has medium confidence in the RfD based on: high confidence in the study on which the RfD is based because a large number of animals of both sexes were tested in four dose groups, with a large number of controls, many effects were monitored, and a dose-related increase in severity was observed; and medium to low confidence in the database because only a few studies support the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL). (4)

Reproductive/Developmental Effects:

  • No studies were located regarding developmental or reproductive effects in humans from inhalation or oral exposure. (1,2)
  • Animal studies have demonstrated that methylene chloride crosses the placental barrier, and minor skeletal variations and lowered fetal body weights have been noted. (1,2)

Cancer Risk:

  • Several studies did not report a statistically significant increase in deaths from cancer among workers exposed to methylene chloride. (1,2)
  • Animal studies have shown an increase in liver and lung cancer and benign mammary gland tumors following inhalation exposure to methylene chloride. (1,2,4)
  • EPA considers methylene chloride to be a probable human carcinogen and has ranked it in EPA’s Group B2.(4)
  • EPA uses mathematical models, based on animal studies, to estimate the probability of a person developing cancer from breathing air containing a specified concentration of a chemical. EPA calculated an inhalation unit risk estimate of 4.7 × 10-7 (µg/m3)-1. EPA estimates that, if an individual were to continuously breathe air containing methylene chloride at an average of 2.0 µg/m3 (0.002 mg/m3) over his or her entire lifetime, that person would theoretically have no more than a one-in-a-million increased chance of developing cancer as a direct result of breathing air containing this chemical. Similarly, EPA estimates that breathing air containing 20 µg/m3 (0.02 mg/m3 ) would result in not greater than a one-in-a-hundred
    breathing air containing 20 µg/m3 (0.02 mg/m3) would result in not greater than a one-in-a-hundred thousand increased chance of developing cancer, and air containing 200 µg/m3(0.2 mg/m3) would result in not greater than a one-in-ten thousand increased chance of developing cancer. For a detailed discussionof confidence in the potency estimates, please see IRIS. (4)
  • Note the MAX mathamatical/theoretical EPA level above of 200 µg/m3(0.2 mg/m3) equates to 0.05758ppm (parts per million). Dichloromethane was measured in ERF on Wednesday 12th & Thursday 13th July, 1995 at 175ppm. This equates to 607,880 µg/m3(607.88 mg/m3). So the level the EPA use to calculate a one-in-a hundred thousand increased chance of developing cancer were exceeded by the Irish Air Corps by a factor of 3,039. So statistically if a person inhalled the levels that many Irish Air Corps were exposed to 24/7 for a lifetime they would have a 1 in 33 chance of developing cancer as a result.
  • EPA calculated an oral cancer slope factor of 7.5 x 10-3 (mg/kg/d)-1. (4)

Physical Properties

  • A common synonym for methylene chloride is dichloromethane. (1,4)
    Methylene chloride is a colorless liquid with a sweetish odor. (1,6)
    The chemical formula for methylene chloride is CH2Cl2, and the molecular weight is 84.93 g/mol. (1)
  • The vapor pressure for methylene chloride is 349 mm Hg at 20 °C, and it has an octanol/water coefficient (log Kow) of 1.30. (1)
  • Methylene chloride has an odor threshold of 250 parts per million (ppm). (7)
  • Methylene chloride is slightly soluble in water and is nonflammable. (1,6)

Read the full EPA PDF on the above Hazardous Air Pollutant with references below.

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Relavance to personnel who served in the Air Corps

  1. Dichloromethane was a  component of Ardrox 666 used in ERF.
  2. Dichloromethane was a component of the Paint Remover 82510 used by the Spray Paint Shop but also by technicians in No3 Sp Wing, BFTS & possibly elsewhere.

There are possibly more chemicals used by the Air Corps that contain Dichloromethane. If you know of some let us know in the comments section. We are not statisticians and our interpretation of the cancer statistics are open to correction.

Solvent exposure and Parkinson’s disease

Shaun Wood worked was a painter and finisher  at Royal Air Force (RAF) bases across the world. During the early 1990s he was involved in the very intensive work preparing Tornado aircraft for the first Gulf War, in particular gluing anti-missile patches to the aircraft. This work was often done in confined spaces over long working hours.  He generally wore a respirator but these were not really adequate for the circumstances.

German Tornado Undergoing Maintenance

Shaun has been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), which is a debilitating Parkinsonian syndrome that affects the nervous system. He is just 53 years of age.

Throughout his work Shaun was exposed to various solvents, but primarily trichloroethylene and dichloromethane. There is not a great deal of information about exposure to these solvents in aircraft maintenance. I have seen results from a survey carried out at an RAF base in Scotland where dichloromethane levels were measured during paint striping in the cockpit area of a Nimrod aircraft. There was only 1.5 m2 of paint removed, but the peak air concentrations were about 700 mg/m3. Results from three monitoring surveys where the British Health and Safety Executive sampled for dichloromethane during paint stripping on aircraft are shown in the following figure. The mean levels measured in each of these surveys were: 330, 790 and 1,960 mg/m3, and the highest individual level measured was 3,590 mg/m3.

Read full article on OH-world.org A blog about exposure science and occupational hygiene

http://johncherrie.blogspot.ie/2011/12/solvent-exposure-and-parkinsons-disease.html

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Below is a photo of one of the locations in the Irish Air Corps that used Dichloromethane, namely the NDT Shop of Engine Repair Flight. Yes that is a stream of the chemicals dripping out of the extractor fan and running down the wall. And yes that is dichloromethane, cresylic acid and the hexavalent sodium chromate all over the floor. The small barrel that is being dissolved by its contents contains Hydrofluoric Acid.

Some extracts from the Ambient Air Monitoring For Health and Safety at Work report dated 2nd August 1995

  1. Dichloromethane levels were measured in the engine shop in Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th of July 1995 at the behest of Captain John Maloney who is still serving in the Irish Air Corps
  2. The level of dichloromethane found in ambient air in the engine
    cleaning area exceeded health and safety limits. 
  3. Levels of Dichloromethane were measured at 175.9ppm (622.5 mg/m3)  while the TWA health & safety limit for this chemical in 1995 was 50ppm.
  4. Significant levels of all parameters monitored were found in nearly all ambient air samples taken in the engine cleaning area.
  5. The ventilation in all areas monitored was deemed to be insufficient. It is thus recommended that mechanical heating and ventilation systems be adapted designed and installed in all areas monitored.

To summarise, the Irish Army Air Corps knew that Dichloromethane levels in the NDT shop in 1995 exceeded health & safety limits by 3.5 times yet officer management

  1. LEFT personnel of all ranks and none to rot in this exceptionally toxic working environment for a further 12 years.
  2. IGNORED the recommendation to design and install design a proper ventilation system, (they stuck in 2 x Xpelairs).
  3. NEVER re-tested the environment to see if the Xpelair fans worked, we suspect they made things worse by increasing evaporation rate.
  4. NEVER informed personnel of enlisted ranks that their workplace was contaminated to dangerous levels.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 26/09/17 – Department of Defence – Chemical Exposure Report

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

547. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will waive legal privilege and publish the Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005 in the public interest and in the interest of transparency. [40484/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

The report referenced by the Deputy was prepared in the context of ongoing legal proceedings. As the release of the report could adversely impact on those proceedings, I will not be releasing the report.

*****

Minister Paul Kehoe must note that there are many personnel who have not taken legal action but whose lives are being regularly threatened by illness flare-ups of pneumonia type illness, hypokalaemia & other incapacitating occurrences such as stroke like symptoms that are currently defying diagnosis

Being able to provide firm evidence of unprotected toxic chemical exposure through dangerous work practices, to treating doctors & consultants, may assist these medical personnel successfully diagnose & treat our colleagues.

The State Claims Agency, who is advising the Minister and his department, does not give a damn whether serving or former personnel live or die and furthermore they couldn’t give two hoots about Minister Kehoe’s political career.

Minister Kehoe needs to be fully aware that not releasing this document will cost lives.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 20/09/17 – Department of Defence – Defence Forces Properties

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

810. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that dangerous chemicals such as ardrox 666 were disposed of for the Air Corps by a company that collected and disposed of all such highly toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic chemicals; and if the amount of chemicals purchased corresponds with the amount sent for safe disposal by the company engaged by the Air Corps to carry out such work in the past 20 years. [39259/17]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

811. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that dangerous chemicals were over the years in a systematic fashion leeched into the soil on lands at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; if soil and or ground water samples have been taken on the 600 acre site at Baldonnel during the past 20 years; if so, the results of those tests; the action taken to prevent this practice; if decontamination of the soil occurred; and if such practice has now ended. [39260/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 810 and 811 together. As this matter pertains to litigation which is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.

Minister of state for defence to probe whistle blower dismissal claim

Minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe has said he has written to the Defence Forces seeking a report on claims that an Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal and that documents key to legal cases against the State were deliberately shredded.

The Irish Examiner recently reported that two separate whistle-blowers told Mr Kehoe that a Defence Forces official ordered the destruction of health and safety reports that showed that the Air Corps’ management of the use of hazardous chemicals was lacking.

On Monday, this newspaper revealed that one of these whistle-blowers is now facing dismissal from the Defence Forces.

In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kehoe confirmed he was informed of the allegations.

“Certain allegations were made that the documents were destroyed,” Mr Kehoe confirmed.

“I have requested a report from the Chief of Staff on the actions taken on foot of the accusation. When the report is to hand I will consider what further steps may be required to take.

“I didn’t destroy any reports, nor am I aware of anyone destroying any reports but I have asked the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces to investigate this matter, to find out about these reports and what happened them and to the reasons why they are not kept on record in the Defence Forces.

“Regarding the individual in the Defence Forces and a dismissal, I only became aware of this, I don’t want to say an exact date, but I’ve asked for a report on that issue.”

Mr Kehoe angrily rejected opposition party suggestions that the Government has been slow to address the matter.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Air Corps accuser facing dismissal in August; Whistleblower disclosed use of hazardous chemicals at aerodrome

A serving Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal from the Defence Forces next month, due to an “industrial dispute”.

“Good News”  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cares more about socks than service personnel.

The Irish Examiner can reveal that the man, who made protected disclosures about health and safety management of hazardous chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, has been summoned to appear before a Defence Forces medical board in August.

A brief report, issued prior to the board meeting, has accused the member of “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work-related industrial dispute”.

The Protected Disclosures Act was introduced in 2014 to protect whistle-blowers from being penalised for reporting issues in their workplace.

This newspaper can also reveal that the man previously met with junior defence minister Paul Kehoe in Government Buildings, to discuss his concerns.

The man told Mr Kehoe that an Air Corps official ordered the shredding of health and safety inspection reports dating back to the 1990s. He is the second whistleblower to make such an allegation.

The claim was also made in a written disclosure submitted by a different whistleblower, in April — a statement that further named the official alleged to have ordered the reports’ destruction.

However, Mr Kehoe has ruled out any investigation into the documents’ disappearance, despite previously admitting that he could only offer “speculative” reasons as to why they cannot be found.

Six former Air Corps staff are suing the State, claiming their chronic illnesses are as a result of their exposure to toxic chemicals used in the course of their duties.

Opposition TDs say they have seen copies of the 1990s inspection reports, and the reports are said to show that it was long-known that the conditions at Casement Aerodrome were not up to standard.

This has prompted claims that the Defence Forces’ copies of the documents were deliberately destroyed to cover up knowledge of workers’ exposure to harmful substances.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website